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Mishandling of immigrant children will stir wave of lawsuits

The mishandling of the cases of the immigrant children crossing the border may result in a wave of lawsuits against the U.S. government.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The U.S. Government's very slow processing of the cases of tens of thousands of immigrant children at the U.S./Mexico border crossings is likely to end up in a wave of lawsuits that could tie up the courts for a very long time. The situation is complicated by the fact that these children are from non-contiguous nations, in other words, nations that are not physically connected to the United States as are Mexico and Canada. Under federal law, immigrant children from non-contiguous nations cannot be sent back home and must be provided a deportation hearing, according to FOX News on Friday.

Although the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) already has filed suit aimed at ensuring government financed representation for each of some 60,000 immigrant children who have crossed the border, it is likely that lawsuits also will be filed on the children's behalf by a multitude of legal advocacy groups over the way that the immigrant children have been treated by authorities at the border. To help meet the ever-escalating costs of such lawsuits, including the legal representation to pay for them, President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion. One such lawsuit was filed in the New Orleans Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the family of a Mexican teen who was shot by a Border Patrol agent as rocks were being thrown at him. That lawsuit is for $325 million. The plaintiffs are stating that the teen had rights under the U.S. Constitution and that those rights were violated when the Border Patrol agent shot him.

In the meantime, the ACLU also has filed a lawsuit in San Antonio, Texas on behalf of eight immigrant children who range in age from 10 to 17. Under the law, children facing deportation must be provided legal help. With a backlog of over 367,000 cases before the immigration courts already, there is no telling when the cases involving these eight children will be heard.

In the midst of all the turmoil, a great deal of blame is being directed at the Obama Administration. Jessica Vaughn, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, blamed the Administration for being too passive and allowing this crisis to unfold. Vaughn stated:

"This administration is empowering these groups by not lifting a finger to defend itself. ICE often times doesn’t bother to send a prosecutor to appear in court. This creates a climate which makes people think they can get away with anything.”

Although the Obama Administration definitely has played a role in the progression of this crisis as it has unfolded, federal law also has been a major contributing factor. This is why President Obama has been so steadfast in requesting immigration reform legislation from Congress. Congress has yet to pass a single immigration bill and in the meantime, the laws that are causing the courts to become backlogged and the lawsuits to spiral out of control, remain on the books.

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